Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Ned says Happy Halloween!  Penny would have except she slept through the photoshoot.  Shh...




Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trying Times

I'm still alive and well - if pretty tired. Between Penny refusing to eat at 2 feedings a day late afternoon and bedtime (breastmilk, formula, breastfeeding, whatever - it is a struggle to get her to take 3 ounces) and Ned getting up at 2 am every night with gas, followed by 4 am feedings for both, it has been a long few days. Good thing the weekend is around the corner and Husband will be on call too. I've found that getting out of the house helps even if it means I'm more tired by the end of the day. For some reason the kids are better out at someone else's house rather than home with me. I stayed in the house on Wednesday and tried to nap when they did but one kid was always awake and fussing. I guess this is what they mean by double-trouble. Good thing they are so cute - as demonstrated below.




I have photos from my in-laws visit and other cute pics I'll post this weekend, along with a rundown as to how I'm surviving without Baby Nurse and with Husband at his new job. He has his first weekly overnight business trip next week! Eek!

Finally - check out this video. I have a totally "mommy freak out" about Ned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Husband's E-mail on Investing

Husband here. Wife Esq. has been bugging me to post this for a few days now--my e-mail to one of her friends, answering a question about investing. (I'll leave the individual in question nameless, though she can feel free to out herself in the comments if she likes.)

Wife's friend wrote to me asking what she and her husband should do about their 401ks given the markets recently--their accounts had gone down by an alarming amount. (Join the club.) He wanted to stop contributing and put the money in a money market account instead, then invest later after things calm down. She wanted to stay the course, and saw the benefit to getting more shares while they're cheap.

In retrospect, I could have made some other good points about losing tax benefits and posing the question "Are you REALLY going to save that money and invest it later, or just spend it?" Instead, I focused on a bigger-picture point: anyone like us (30s, two good incomes, a couple of kids...now or on the way) should be viewing this crisis as an opportunity.

Anyhow, here's the e-mail I sent her on Friday morning, edited only slightly for anonymity's sake. I wish I had posted this yesterday, before today's 10% jump...I hate looking like I'm just posting because I was right in the ultra-short term, since that's about the exact opposite of my point. I guess that's what I get for procrastinating when Wife tells me to post something.

Going to cash now would be the biggest mistake you could make. You would be missing the greatest wealth-building opportunity our generation will ever see.

You should be almost 100% in stocks, regardless of what happens in the market today, or tomorrow, or next week. Why? You have a very, very long investment horizon--you won't be actually doing anything with that money for another 30 years at least, and you're looking for it to continue growing in the stock market for at least the next 45 years. Your biggest risk on that time scale isn't market losses, it's inflation. A money market account gives you a "safe" 3% or 4% return, but at best that keeps you about even with inflation. In other words, your money isn't really growing--you have to take on some risk to beat inflation. But that risk is mitigated by the long period you have to make up for any momentary reversals.

I would give different advice to someone in our parents' shoes or our grandparents'. In the case of our parents' generation, they actually need that money fairly soon, so they can't afford to be super aggressive. And our grandparents would lose immediate spending power from this kind of loss, so they need to be even more careful.

But for us, this is a fantastic opportunity.
  • Even if you don't have a stash of cash that you're willing to dump into the market, you have a regular, non-trivial amount of surplus income--all you have to do is direct it into stocks instead of cash. (Or just do nothing, if it was already going to be going into stocks, like your 401k--all you have to do then is not change anything!)
  • You have long investment horizons--40 years or so to retirement, 20 years or so for your kids' college funds. You can afford to mis-time the market a bit. Even if you invest today and it keeps going down for another month or a year, or if the market's flat for the next 5 years, you'll have plenty of time to make up for that.
  • Most assets are held by our parents' and grandparents' generations--and they are (somewhat justifiably) panicking. They're dumping shares, corporate bonds, everything, and going to cash or Treasurys. EVERYTHING is taking a beating...which means everything is cheap for those of us with some cash to buy it. This means you don't even have to be very smart about picking the right place to invest. When everything is cheap, almost any investment is likely to pay off in the long term. A monkey throwing darts would make bank right now. (Assuming the monkey had cash to invest--point 1--and had a long-term view--point 2. I don't know if this is actually broadly applicable to monkeys.) If you're invested in a few broadly diversified mutual funds, you're in fine shape.

Incidentally, I've been following my own advice. Since about the last week in September, I've been dumping lots of cash into 5 different mutual funds, plus our 529 plans. Our cash hoard was sadly depleted by our landscaping, AC installation, and baby nurse spending, but I've still managed to put [about a month's take-home] into play. Most of it has lost money at this point, but I'd rather be a little early than too late. I'm planning on continuing to invest [about 10% of our monthly take-home] a week until we get down to a minimum acceptable level of cash, or the markets recover, whichever comes first.

One other thought--do you have any money in non-retirement funds at this point? If so let me know--I have some additional tax-related advice there. [She didn't, but basically this advice would have been: dump your losers, and buy similar but not identical funds/stocks. This way you get to claim the tax loss this year, but stay in the market while avoiding wash-sale issues.]

Oh, and one last thought. Investing in a 529 plan NOW would be a great move. Open it listing yourself as the beneficiary, then change the beneficiary to your kid once he's born. That way, any gains you make from this awesome opportunity will be tax free!


Anyone who wants in on the Husband Financial Advisory Network, let me know. Very reasonable hourly fees, payable in beer or whisky.

Monday, October 27, 2008

HENRYs

The media has coined a term for folks who earn good money but bear the brunt of taxes and have no real wealth - HENRYs (High Earners, Not Rich Yet). I think the "Not Rich Yet" is too optimistic - earning power does not equal wealth and likely won't for most people. Rich means you have assets, not just income. The HENRYs in the article above (like Husband and me) have no real assets other than retirement accounts, 529 Plans and a house mostly mortgaged. The Really Rich can shield their income from taxes through tax shelters and asset allocations.

Working at a Big Firm means I do make a good salary. But I also need to save for retirement (since there will be no social security or medicaid when I'm a senior citizen), kids schooling, nanny/day care. It means that we have to be very careful about spending - and we have to constantly assess whether we have enough money to pay taxes. My friends think that a good salary means I should be paying more in taxes but why do we also lose all deductions? Thanks to AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) and phase out for deductions in the standard tax returns I don't get much benefit (or any really) for children, home ownership, student loans. It makes sense if you pay a flat percentage of your income and get rid of all deductions for everyone. So the government doesn't subsidize children or home ownership (look at the trouble that subsidization caused in the market!) and everyone pays a fair portion. I'm not saying I have the answers to our fiscal deficit but I do hate that the first thing certain of our candidates want to do is raise taxes to pay for social programs.

No wonder working at Big Firm often results in "golden handcuffs". I may have bought a house I could afford at another less-paying job but I don't think we could afford the tax bill if I did leave.

Everyone has a tough time with finances and I know my husband and I do well for ourselves (I won't say we're lucky since we work hard - but we are blessed) but it is hard to be worrying so much about finances on top of everything else. It makes the breastfeeding seem like a distant worry (although BF is cheaper (free!) than formula).

Okay - just wanted to post something OTHER than babies for once. Husband also has a finance post he'll be adding soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another bear suit picture

Mommy Esq. left out my favorite picture we took of the kids in their bear outfits.

Kids in the Hood

My kids (and apparently all kids) hate hats. But it is hat season as the weather gets colder and I want to keep them toasty warm. Hoods seem like a nice compromise. And edible - at least according to Ned who is eating his in the first photo.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lovies, blankies and other attachment objects

Growing up my sisters and I carried around blankets. There was a harrowing experience when my dad, left alone with us for a weekend while my mom was at her college reunion, accidentally washed Allie's blanket and turned its color. Maybe that's why I only recall that one time as when he did laundry. :) I definitely remember mine and Stacey's were yellow and I stuck the corner of it up my nose while I sucked on two fingers on my right hand (or was it left? Stacey and I were opposites).

I want my kids to have blankets or "lovies" as some people call them. I think we called them "blankies". My grandmother and mom made blankets for the kids but I think they are too big for my little tykes to carry around (once they start walking) and then I'd have to choose between the two of them. Instead Husband and I found small animal blankets thanks to advice from Baby Nurse. They are smaller than the kids and very soft. We ordered them online - and here is a link to the photo of all the different types and a link to a site where you can buy them.

We bought three for each kid. This way if one gets lots or dirty we can wash them and/or have backup. Plus we can keep one in their crib, one in the car seats and one on the floor where they play (or in their pack n' plays). The kids seem to recognize them since we put the blankies near them all the time. Some places sell "teething" blankets (with rubber edges) and we got two of those but I like these much better.

Penny got pink hippos (very cute little teeth on each side of the mouth) and Ned got monkeys. I tend to think of her with giraffe (she has some clothes with giraffes on them and other toy giraffes) but the hippo looked cuter.


Ethnicity

Today we took the kids to have hip ultrasounds. These are typically done for breach babies - especially preemies/multiples that are at higher risk for hip displasia. I was going through the necessary registration information and was asked "what is their ethnicity"?

I find this the most difficult question to answer and I wonder why all medical establishments keep asking it. First of all, I don't have much of any idea where Husband's family is "from" (nor does he) - and I'm sure it is a hodgepodge of various European countries. And as for my own - well, the original direct descendant of my family moved to the "New World" in 1646 (to the area where the town I grew up in was formed). Sure I could say from what country (Wales/England) but after hundreds of years of marriage I have no idea what countries and ethnicity are jumbled together.

Can't I just say "American"? They let you say "no preference" for religion so I'd like the same option for ethnicity. And for those of you thinking "can't you just say "white/Caucasian?" that is the answer to the "race" question also always asked of us. Religion, race, ethnicity - the trifecta of trying to pigeonhole people.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Penny at Eight Weeks

Penny has not changed that much since she was two weeks old. Except that she doesn't mind now when we change her diaper. She is very sweet tempered. When Stacey said that she was ready to have a baby and that she wants her (assuming it is a girl) to be like Penny I reminded her it doesn't work that way! Husband and I noticed that she is very photographic and always looks straight ahead.




Eight Weeks

I can't believe my little babies are eight weeks as of today. Here is a comparison of Ned photos so you can see how much he's grown. The first is at two weeks and the other was taken at eight weeks. I actually think he looks a little like his cousin Finn now. Happy 2nd Birthday, Finn!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend In Review

Friday was my first "class" at a maternity center.  The center offers classes for newborns and I opted to go with one they have for moms of multiples.  Eight moms each with two babies crammed into a small room.  It was during my tykes' "lunch" so I fed them each a bottle and tried to pump some after class was over.  Luckily both kids were agreeable most of the time and ate very well despite the distractions and the fact I had to do the one on each boppy feeding at the same time routine.  

I'm glad I decided to do the multiples class.  Everyone told their story - the time in the NICU, struggles with breastfeeding, lack of sleep, post partum depression.  Only one mom seems to be making the breastfeeding work on a near exclusive basis - her kids were born a week before mine at 38 weeks.  I like her - she's an identical twin herself (has fraternal twin boys).  My kids were the "youngest" but almost full term whereas most of the other babies were born gestationally sooner.  I can't tell you the number of women who are anguishing over breastfeeding - kids who latch but don't suck vigorously (check), struggles with latching and nipple shields (check), then feeding bottles (check), then pumping (check).  For all I have struggled with breastfeeding I will say that the bottles and the four hour feeding schedule has made my life pretty manageable.  I will continue to breastfeed when I can but seeing how much all the women beat themselves up about it I decided to stop feeling guilty and feel good about how much I enjoy my kids and to worry less about how much I pump and breastfeed them.  I also seem to get out quite a bit more than other moms - I'm glad I made myself do it so often so it doesn't feel insurmountable (just challenging).  All the company of family, friends and Baby Nurse meant I have had no baby blues, just frustrations about chores and feedings.  I was also the only one who mentioned my job/returning to work.  That isn't to say all the other moms are or will be stay-at-home moms just that I clearly think of myself as both a mom and also a lawyer. 

Friday night was dinner with Helen and Natalie at the Cheesecake Factory.  I brought desert home for Baby Nurse and Husband.  We went into some clothing stores but I'm not ready to buy things yet - especially if I can try to lose some more weight. 

Saturday I took the kids for a walk with Husband at Horn Pond in Woburn.  Very nice walk and less traffic/noise than the lake walk in Wakefield.  I'll be going back with them. 

Baby Nurse is back until Wednesday so Husband and I had a lovely dinner out on Saturday night.  We tried to drag it out - cocktails, appetizer, etc. but still somehow came how pretty early. 

Sunday my Uncle Bob (my dad's brother), Aunt Nancy and cousin Grace came over to see the kids and my parents came by too since they just got back from a trip to California.  Everyone was impressed how round Ned has gotten.  That's what 5-6 ounces a feeding will do for you! They also think both kids are more alert and active. Husband agrees and has been having fun on the rug with the kids.















Husband is off this week as he is starting a new job in Wakefield at the end of the month. He'll have a 10 minute commute which is great for him and for me!  I have lots of "me" activities planned for this week. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Do You Do It?

I thought it is a good pictorial of how I try to handle two kids at once. Penny is breastfeeding while I burp Ned.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

You're So Vain! I Bet You Think This Post is About You, Don't You?

Yesterday I had a play date with two work friends. We're going to try to do it once a week or every two weeks. Cynthia's little girl is 3 months old and so we pick up the tricks of the trade from her. Since her daughter was so taken by a mirror I thought I'd try it on my kids. Someone thinks he's pretty handsome!


It was interesting to see how both moms were so attentive to each little signal from their daughters - always picking up, etc. if they think their child is upset. To be honest I really only do that if one kid is crying - really crying. I guess I have a pretty high level of fussiness. Plus sometimes I'm feeding one kid so the other has to wait. My mom had to do the same thing with us three but that never made me any better about waiting my turn.

Ned is reaching for things and even seems to play a little with one of the toys I got them. Unfortunately he also seems to be cross-eyed so I'll have to mention that to the pediatrician when I see her in a couple of weeks. Penny is a little wiggle worm on her tummy even when she's crying bloody murder. I predict she'll crawl first but that Sir Squeaks-and-Grunts-a-lot will talk first. He even makes this cute cooing sound once in a while that Husband and I both love.

The newest colors for baby girls seems to be pink and brown. Here is Penny modeling a onsie:


Sometimes I have to put the laptop down to attend to a kid - wherever is convenient:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How Bad Is the Economy?

Even before the downturn of the stockmarket I could tell the economy was spiraling downward. It wasn't gas/oil prices - which, by the way, Massachusetts has the highest heating oil prices in the country - just in time for me to need the heat on higher than usual 24/7 for the bambinos.

The true indicator has been condiment packages. At McDonalds, Chinese restaurants, pizza places, etc. you no longer automatically get condiments; and, when you ask for them you get 1 package. A few weeks ago I was at a fast food place and asked for ketchup. When asked "how many" - I said "a few" and the server debated whether to give me 3 or 4 packages. And soy sauce packets? No matter how much we order we only get 1 soy sauce package per order.

Maybe you are thinking - they are being environmentally conscious but I don't see a decrease in packaging or free napkins. Just condiments. When public bathrooms run out of toilet paper I'll know it is time to really be scared.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

So Big! Plus Week in Pictorial Review

Many people have commented how big the kids have gotten based on the photos I post. Sometimes I see it when someone else is feeding them but usually I don't think of them as much bigger as the day they were born.  I guess it is because we spend so much time together. 
Auntie Stacey who is 16 weeks pregnant (with one baby) is here for the long weekend.  That is good since Baby Nurse is staying with another family for one week. Then she's back for 5 days and gone for good.  Sniff.  

As of Tuesday after Stacey leaves I'm on my own until Friday afternoon.  I hope I don't go as mental as I did on Friday when I was home alone and Penny refused to eat.  She and I (well, really I) tried for over 2.5 hours - breast, bottle, whatever.  Nothing worked - she just wanted to sleep.  This prompted a hysterical phone call to Husband (at this point I had been feeding kids for 3 hours - but Ned luckily took his bottle and was not too fussy while I was working with Miss Penny).  He suggested I just let her sleep and I did.  She also didn't eat her late afternoon meal but was back on track by bedtime bottle and okay the next day.  I'd chalk it up to a growth spurt except the color of the items in her diaper were quite green.  We tried a little experiment and it may be from when I eat salad.  I guess salad is out for a few more weeks.  Husband gave me a break when he got home on Friday - I ran out to get us dinner and waited for the food reading US Weekly and drinking a glass of wine. 

Anyway, back to Auntie Stacey.  She has been spending the most time with our Princess and things both kids are precious and "so good".  Really?  I don't think Ned was all that "good" when he was up quite a bit on Saturday night.  Fortunately it being the weekend Husband let me take a 2.5 hour nap this afternoon.  That rocked.  
Husband's tired because we agreed we'd both feed the kids their bottles in the middle of the night until he starts his new job.  This helps me keep pumping for another week or two.  After that I'm going to try to do it myself and let him sleep.  We'll see how long that lasts!  It is interesting how he sleeps through their crying and I'm awake instantly.  We do not have a monitor on - their room is across from ours so we just leave the doors open.  Ned is Sir Squeaks-and-Grunts-a-lot so it is the only way I get any sleep.

The tykes are seven weeks on Monday.  When does this whole "sleeping until 5 am" start?  They nap really well in the morning so that is my chore time - laundry, kitchen, preparing bottles, etc.  Yet my house is still a disaster and there are days I can barely find something to eat.  I admit I'm secretly looking forward to going back to work so I can have a little non-kid structure to my life.  Of course for that to happen I need to find a nanny.  Writing up our Sitter City advertisement is on my list of things to do - along with a million other items that never seem to get done. 

My hat is off to those stay at home moms - I don't know how you do it all.  And I can say that for real now that I am a temporary stay at home mom myself. 
Here are more photos to enjoy as a pictorial update of our week. 
Play date with Julie and Georgiana (aka "Georgie") who is a couple of weeks younger than my kids.  All of the women I'm friends with had little girls so Ned has quite a few "girlfriends" already. Husband wants to know why we women like to line the kids up for photos. No idea but I do it instinctively. There are lots of photos of my sisters and me lined up too.


We parked at my office building for our play date so the kids got to see some of my work friends in the lobby. Here's one with Alyson - a frequent commentator on this blog.


Me with the kids. Penny sporting a simple yet stylish plain white onsie - she can pull it off with her skin tone. Tummy time - Ned has figured out sleeping is an option. Together time with Daddy.  If you are wondering why he is always in a white T-shirt it is because he takes off his business shirt as soon as he comes home and throws on jeans - "Daddy-wear". 





Time with Auntie Stacey. Do you think the kids can tell us apart?



Saturday, October 11, 2008

Little Red Sox Fans

Edmund and Penelope are Red Sox fans of course. Go Sox!



Thursday, October 9, 2008

Breastfeeding Chronicles

Ned eats 6 ounces of formula at bedtime and in the middle of the night. 6 ounces! And same amount when he has breastmilk bottles. Penny still hovers between 4 and 5 ounces for her bottles. I'd like to remind you all that they are only 7 weeks old. They love to eat and they love bottles and a schedule and I'm starting to be too tired of worrying about my Supply and whether I'm giving them enough when they breastfeed and whether I can find time to pump while taking care of them to stand up to it much longer. I wonder whether I'd be happier if I just stopped and fed them formula and I think that's where we'll end up in a few weeks.

I'm still determined to make it through end of October (when they'll be 10 weeks old) with the majority of their feedings as breastmilk but I think things might quickly fall by the wayside thereafter. If I'm lucky I can make it 12 weeks with majority of feedings being breastmilk (expressed or from me). As it is I have had to supplement them both after each breastfeeding with a few ounces of pumped breastmilk. Then per the lactation consultant I pump to try to increase my supply (so I don't have to supplement them). It's really hard to find time to pump when you're trying to feed 2 kids, keep them calm, do laundry, etc. And I haven't noticed any increase in my supply - in fact, it's been decreasing this last week.

We're still doing both on the breast in the morning (tandem which can be tough but they are not patient in the morning to allow for one at a time) and then alternating kids with one on the breast and one on the pumped breastmilk bottle for the other daytime feeds. Bedtime and middle of the night is formula. It is also still taking over an hour to breastfeed - sometimes as much as an hour and a half. Ned does a bottle in about 20 mins - Penny is more like 30 mins. The interesting thing though is that because they are eating so much they are going to bed earlier and only doing 5 feedings a day (4 during the daytime/bedtime, 1 in the middle of the night). Husband and my parents and other visitors love that they have a chance to feed the kids a bottle.

We'll see how this is all working next week when I'm home alone for the first time all week. I can't imagine being able to pump after I get up at 3 am to feed them their night formula. After next week Husband is home for about a week between jobs (which is why I can probably make it to the end of the month).

Right now I'm trying to find someway to feel okay about switching to exclusively formula in the near future. I feel like if I were stronger somehow I could make this breastfeeding twins work since so many moms have been able to do it. I feel "weak" for liking the ability to schedule the kids with the bottle. I only breastfeed 3 times a day and I still feel so insecure the whole time I do it (primarily relating to my Supply and whether they are getting enough). I'm tired of worrying about when to pump or whether they are still hungry. I think if I had done exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) it might have worked better but I would also have had to check myself in a mental hospital if I had tried to feed both of them on demand all day and night. I do read about how if I kept going it would protect them against allergies, ear infections, diseases, etc. I'm also going to miss how I can eat whatever I want right now and still be losing weight.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Debate This!

I need to watch the debate and write up some associate and partner reviews so I don't have time for a real update yet - despite how long it has been.

Instead I will placate you with photos of the kids. Grammie and Bumpa were completely enchanted with their Princess Penny on Sunday. Look at those neck muscles when Grammie was keeping her sitting up in the Boppy! They love that they can feed a child when they visit (while I breastfeed the other). Both kids are much more awake during the day and on Monday I got them to hang out on the blanket together for 15 mins before they started melting down. The exercise ball I have is another "savior" device - it calms them down when I bounce up and down on it. If only I could figure out how to hold both kids at once...